I have trouble making dinner unless I’m pretty excited about it. Cooking is a lot of work. Of course, I make it more work than it has to be, but no matter what you have to think about what you’re going to have for dinner, and then execute that plan. For me, planning is actually the most draining part of the whole ordeal. Once my meal plan is nailed down, I go on autopilot and just chop, boil, fry, or whatever. It’s basically therapeutic. But meal planning. Yuck. Meal planning is not therapeutic.
For me, when I feel in control of my life, meal planning starts by looking at the calendar. Then I text Adam about the people we want to have over on what days, keeping in mind any allergies and preferences of the people in question. Then I look at the forecast to see if it will be too hot to turn on the oven, or, in the winter, if one day will be better for having soup or something hearty.
Next, I visit the websites of Safeway and QFC to see what’s on sale. Then I look at my Pinterest board to see if there’s anything inspiring on it. Spoiler alert: Many of the meals on here were first pins on my board, though with 800+ pins on my Main Dishes board alone you might have trouble finding them. I ask Adam and Ava if there’s anything they’d like to have that we haven’t had in a while.
And finally, then I make a list, categorized by section, in order. Produce first, because you want plenty of prime cart real estate for fruits and veggies so that they’re not falling over other things and getting bruised and battered. Then the inner aisles because that stuff can be at room temperature for months. Then the dairy and meat because those things spoil, and then, on the way towards the checkout line, I pick up anything I need from the freezer aisle. And this has all been preordained on my list before I leave my house.
Remember the caveat “when I feel in control of my life.” Lately, it’s been too hot to think. I have not been in control of my life. I have not wanted to cook. Or move, for that matter. We bought an air conditioner today on Amazon. Then we remembered that we still have to pay for a hotel for my cousin’s wedding next month, so we promptly and horrifyingly cancelled the order. So it’ll continue to be sticky cooking for the foreseeable future.
The result has been almost daily trips to the grocery store. On the plus side, grocery stores are air conditioned. And also, the deals on meat about to meet the sell-by date aren’t advertised. This meat requires a thorough examination before it lands in my cart. But it’s how I found a beautiful unspoiled steak deeply discounted.
I remembered how delicious my pan-seared steak was. It was time to try it on the grill. But I’ve already featured this steak. Plus it’s just steak and salt and pepper, how many times can you talk about that? So the exciting part had to be a side dish.
It’s hard for me to get excited about side dishes. I don’t want to have to think about them because they come with every meal, and it’s hard enough to sit down and come up with a week of main dishes. My brain can’t handle seven main dishes and a dozen side dishes. So everything we eat is accompanied by a fresh salad. Usually this salad is lettuce (Romaine or green leaf), peppers of various colors, carrots and sugar snap peas. And usually there’s also a carb, like rice or potatoes.
Ah potatoes. They are so versatile. Cooked so many different ways. Hashbrowns, chips, American fries, French Fries, baked fries, waffle fries, wedges, mashed, baked… I’ve only parboiled potatoes once before this attempt, and I decided it was the most underrated culinary technique of all time (because for most of my life I had no idea what it was, so it had to be underrated…). The outside of the potato is crispy and delicious, while the inside is fluffy and indulgent.
Parboiling is boiling something before cooking it using another method. In this case, something is a Yukon Gold Potato, and the finishing method is the grill. Yukon potatoes have a creamy inner texture and hold together well. I tried this first with a regular ole Russet, and the results weren’t as good: some of the potatoes fell apart before I could grill them.
Grilled Potato Rounds
3 Medium Yukon Gold Potatoes, Evenly Sliced ~1/3″
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons of Butter, Melted
2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1/2 Tablespoon of Salt, or To Taste
1 Teaspoon of Dried Basil, or Your Favorite Herb
Bring about 3-4 cups of salted water to a low boil.
Add the potato rounds to the water and cook for 7-10 minutes until nearly cooked through. The edges of potato will start to soften but the middle will still be mostly firm.
Meanwhile, combine the oil, melted butter, minced garlic, salt and basil.
Toss the cooked potatoes and oily mixture until the potatoes are evenly coated.
Put the potatoes in a single layer on a hot grill.
When the grill marks appear, flip.
Grill until cooked through.